What is copywriting?
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What is Copywriting?

Are you intimidated by copywriting?

If your answer is yes, welcome to how 99% of marketers feel.

If your answer is no, are you some kind of wizard?

Copywriting is the reason why people buy something.

There’s a reason copywriting is so intimidating—because copy is the straw that stirs the money milkshake. Copywriting is the reason why people buy something. Copywriting is the text that makes somebody stop thinking, “I can live without it” and start thinking, “Why am I living without it?”

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a series of words.

That’s why I’m going to give you an in-depth look at what copywriting is, how it has changed with the rise of digital marketing, and the different types of copywriting, as well as provide tons of examples for you to find inspiration.

The goal is for you to walk away with a wand in your hand ready to cast your copywriting spell on every ice-cold lead and prospect you encounter.

What is Copywriting?

Officially, copywriting is defined as:

 “The activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.”

Copywriting definition from Google search

 Let’s put that dictionary definition into everyday examples.

Copywriting is the content you see written in the caption of a Facebook ad. It’s the headline of a Google ad or the description of a YouTube video. It’s the text on a website, from the landing page to the product page.

Outside of digital marketing, it’s the text written on billboards, the title of a newspaper article, and the sign outside of a brick-and-mortar store.

When people talk about “clickbait” headlines, they’re talking about copywriting. Copywriting motivates people to click on a website, tells them why they need to buy the product, and persuades them to swap their money for goods and services.

As we talk about copywriting throughout this article, we’re talking about content put on websites, social profiles, ad campaigns, and email campaigns that are designed to make somebody want to buy a product, become part of a community, sign up for a free offer, etc.

What is Copywriting NOT?

The short answer: pretty much any other type of writing.

Copywriting is intended to move you to action. It is strategical and to the point. So anything that doesn’t do that? Not copywriting. A blog post about Facebook ads? Not copywriting. That book on your shelf that talks about what copywriting is that you haven’t read? STILL not copywriting.

See copywriting is often confused with content writing. But they aren’t quite the same.

  • Content writing is this article in its entirety
  • Copywriting is the text you see promoting the DigitalMarketer products within this article

See the difference? 

But there is often some level of overlap.

Content writing says, “Here’s some free value in the form of useful information. If you feel like it, check out our other useful information or get it delivered to your inbox, sign up for a free trial, etc.”. It’s usually longer form content (500–3,000+ word articles).

Copywriting doesn’t beat around the bush. It says, “Sign up for this free thing” (in a very convincing tone). It’s shorter form, 100–1,000 words that tell you what the product does, why you need it, and how to buy it RIGHT NOW.

So know content writing can help with your copywriting, but the reverse is true in spades. Having the skills to drive action in just a few impactful words can boost the quality and value of your content writing.

How has Copywriting Changed Since Marketing Went Digital?

Before the internet age dawned on the marketing industry and decided that digital would be king—copywriting was alive and thriving.

What was happening in advertising in 2000? Forward-thinking marketers, like Gary Vaynerchuk, were on top of the Adwords launch—he launched his first Adwords campaign the same day that Adwords came out. But the rest of the marketers were still focused on traditional marketing methods, trying to figure out how to make their catalog advertisements get traction.

The Google Advertising page before Google Adwords was launched

Google Advertising circa 1999

In March of 2000, Inc Magazine published an article called, “Design and Copywriting for Print Advertising.” They highlighted 8 of the most important factors to consider when writing copy. Factor #2 is to “Focus on Selling.”

Clearly, marketers were talking about copywriting on a macro level (to say the least). We could get away with saying things like “Focus on selling,” and other marketers would nod their heads and say, “that makes sense.”

As digital marketing has evolved, it has made copywriting more complex.

But this is 2019, folks. We’ve shifted to the micro-copywriting picture.

If DigitalMarketer wrote an article today and one of our techniques was to, “Focus on selling”—what would be your response?

“Yeah sure, but what does that mean?”

Instead of saying, “Focus on selling” we say, “Here are 4 Persuasive Sales Copywriting Techniques to be a More Effective Copywriter.” Then we outline these techniques in detail.


Because as digital marketing has evolved, it has made copywriting more complex. Facebook and Google ads are everywhere, which means our audiences are saturated with bids for their attention (and more importantly, their money).

Google cashed in $27.7 billion in revenue in Quarter 3 of 2018—only 13.24% ($3.6 billion) of their revenue didn’t come from advertising. At no other time in history has so much copy existed in the world.

If we want to stand out, we can’t focus solely on selling; we have to use psychology and proven marketing methods to get their attention and hope they’ll want the value we’re offering them.

Who Needs Copywriting?

If you have a product that you’re trying to sell to people—you need copywriting.

Think of your customers on one side of a ledge and your product on a nearby ledge. The only way for your customers to get from their ledge to your product’s ledge is a bridge.

Copy is that bridge.

The DigitalMarketer copywriting Cert landing page

Having good copy on your landing page is the difference between selling and not.

(RELATED: Click here for a checklist of the 5 copywriting elements to test on your landing page)

Or you can think of copywriting as the officiant at the wedding of consumer and business.

It’s the reason anyone realizes they have a problem, and, wouldn’t ya know it… your product can solve it.

Every business needs copywriting if they want to convert traffic into customers. Websites without copy don’t get sign-ups or opt-ins, don’t build brand awareness, and don’t persuade people to give them their money.

When Should You Use Copywriting?

You should be using copy on all of your business’ online platforms: social media, emails, and websites. This isn’t to be confused with only using copy on your platforms.

Think of the last business that wouldn’t stop asking you to buy something from them, whether it was through an email marketing campaign, direct mail, Facebook ad, TV commercial, etc.

When a business asks us too many times to buy something, their reputation suffers. Suddenly they switch from problem solver to annoying younger sibling. We want them to buzz off and let us be, regardless of the secret they’re dying to tell us.

Yet, as business owners, we still need to ask people to buy things. We just need to do it tactfully…

For example, filling your blog page with copywriting might be overkill (ironic coming from a blog about copywriting, yes? 😉). This is where you want to focus on content writing and providing value before asking. On the reverse, copywriting on your landing page is essential. This is the website page that’s going to persuade somebody to visit your blog instead of hitting that dreaded back button.

7 Copywriting Strategies and Examples

Since we’re DigitalMarketer and our entire company is built around helping your business succeed, you knew we were going to give you some insights as to how to write the best copy for your business.

Strategy #1: The Power of One

The Power of One plays off of one good idea, core emotion, captivating story, or inevitable response.

It’s the headline that makes you think, “That’s brilliant,” the tagline that sings your heart, the bus stop ad that makes you stop and read the entire thing, or the Google ad that tells you to get ready to laugh.

For example:

  • Good idea: How to Use Body Language to Land Your Dream Job
  • Core Emotion: We’re fighting for the 1.5 million animals who will be euthanized this year.
  • Captivating Story: An advertisement talking about how a woman was able to save a man and his dog from the roof of his home after he was caught in a hurricane
  • Inevitable Response: You’ll Laugh When You Realize How Many Times You’ve Made This Copywriting Mistake

Strategy #2: Verb, Noun, Goal

Jon Benson, living copywriting legend (and one of the first copywriters I ever looked up to), uses this strategy as one (of hundreds) in his CopyPro copywriting AI software. The idea came from a pattern Jon saw in all business owners.

They all wanted to do something to help a certain avatar reach their goal. Jon realized, in order for these business owners to achieve their own goals they had to be able to clearly communicate them to clients.

For example:

DigitalMarketer provides marketing agencies the strategies and tools so they can double their business.

Verb: Provides

Noun: Marketing Agencies

Goal: Double their business

Infusionsoft grows businesses with an all-in-one CRM.

Verb: Grows

Noun: Businesses

Goal: to have an all-in-one CRM

Strategy #3: Always Write Below an 8th-Grade Reading Level

This isn’t a template copywriting strategy, it’s an overarching strategy. All of your copy, regardless of where it is posted, should be written below an 8th-grade reading level. Why? Because the average US consumer reads at an 8th-grade level, which means our content can’t be more

The average US consumer reads at an 8th-grade level

complicated than that.

To determine the reading level of text, there are 3 factors:

  1. Total Words
  2. Total Sentences
  3. Total Syllables

Using HemingwayApp, you can see the readability score of your content. Just paste your copy on to the website and on the right widget bar you’ll see the difficulty level. This is a free online tool that doesn’t even require you to have an account to use it.

Hemingway App for better copywriting

Strategy #4: Benefits > Features

Your copywriting shouldn’t talk about how great your product is, it should talk about how great your product makes your customer’s life.

Remember, your business has more to do with the problem you’re solving for your customers than the fancy bells and whistles you use to make it look good.

For example, on the landing page for our Content Marketing Specialist Certification Course, we put bullet points of everything you’ll learn from taking the course.

Example of copywriting from a DigitalMarketer landing page

Strategy #5: Play on FOMO

Remember the last time you weren’t able to watch Game of Thrones on Sunday night and had to spend all of Monday in a pit of FOMO as you dodged everybody’s conversations around who survived and who didn’t?

FOMO, the “fear of missing out,” can be felt in person AND online.

For example, we sent an email with the headline:

ICYMI: Want to be a better copywriter? Open this before midnight.”

(ICYMI stands for “In Case You Missed It”)

A DM email with killer copywriting

The email had a 14.82% open rate thanks to FOMO and one other copywriting strategy that we added at the very end, urgency.

Strategy #6: Leverage Quantity and Availability Through Urgency

Urgency in copywriting is the persuasion that pushes a customer to want to sign up, buy a product, etc., because they are given a specific amount of time to do so. This can work in 2 ways:

  1. Quantity: There are only so many units of a product, tickets for an event, seats at a Mastermind
  2. Availability: The product or service is only available at this price or at all for a limited time

For example:

Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face and keynote speaker at the 2019 Traffic & Conversion Summit has built her business around urgency due to a lack of quantity. For each of her products, she orders a set amount and that’s it. Once her planners sell out, they never come back in stock.

This makes her fanbase take her product launches very seriously. They’ve been trained to know that if she drops a new planner and they don’t get it, they won’t ever have it.

You’ll see DigitalMarketer using urgency due to availability often in our emails. Here are 2 examples,

Example 1:

A DM email subject line with good copywriting

Example 2:

A DM email subject line with good copywriting

Strategy #7: Speak Your Customer’s Language

Copywriting should always use the verbiage of your customers, but adding urgency, discounts, or benefits can take away from your opportunity to do so—there’s only so many characters you can use on an email subject line or Google ad.

In this copywriting strategy, you’ll only play on your customer’s language.

DigitalMarketer wanted to talk to the OG marketers who were around before Instagram existed, so we created this email subject line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t Instagram.”

Another DM email with awesome copywriting

The email had a 14.80% open rate, which impressed us—we hadn’t stressed urgency, we didn’t offer a discount on a product, and we didn’t talk

The not-so-secret secret about copywriting and marketing is to keep testing your copy over and over and over again

about how the content of the email would help you guys.

(RELATED: Learn more about good email subject lines HERE)

Yet, you loved it.

This goes to say that copywriting isn’t always about selling. Sometimes it’s about meeting your customers exactly where they are and telling them that you understand what they’re feeling… so that they buy from you later 😉.

Copywriting puts a lot of pressure on words to get strangers to buy into what you’re offering.

If you’re not hitting the nail on the head with your copywriting and getting the conversion you hoped for, don’t freak out. Remember—the not-so-secret secret about copywriting and marketing is to keep testing your copy over and over and over again.

Find the copy that works, put your ad dollars behind it, and then keep testing.

Copy can generate traffic, turn that traffic into conversions, and transform those conversions into raving fans of your brand. If you haven’t made an effort to improve your copy in all parts of your business yet, well, you’re already behind.

*drops mic*

Ben Griffin

Ben Griffin

Ben is the primary Copywriter at DigitalMarketer, where he helps drive the mission to double the size of 10,000 businesses. A former 1st grade teacher, Ben has worked in the Austin community over the last 8 years, implementing proven copy strategies for startups and large companies alike. Ben also enjoys the music scene in Austin, The University of Texas, and a glass of fine bourbon after a long day of battling with the blank page.

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